He Done All He Could
I was going through some old notes this past week when I came across a cartoon strip... a “Ziggy” cartoon that I’d first seen some time ago... it shows Ziggy checking off a list on a bulletin board that reads, “things to do today.” The list had only one item, “#1: Procrastinate.” In other words... tend to all the things today that you should have done yesterday!
Most of us can identify, can’t we? Sometimes it seems like the only thing we really get accomplished is adding more things to our “to do list.” And sometimes in our Christian life it seems much the same. And reading scripture like our lesson for today, we realize being a Christian and living the Christian life, can be demanding... so... sometimes we procrastinate... we put off doing the things we need to be about doing, as followers of Christ.
Jesus doesn’t let anyone off the hook does he? His popularity had grown, and the crowds were growing. He was really packing people in. Things were going GREAT! And then he had to start preaching all this stuff about bearing your cross, hating family... It makes me wonder how he kept crowds coming with all this talk about sacrifice.
Of course, I KNOW... no one likes to talk too much about sacrifice... because it’s not popular. But Jesus laid it right out there for us all to deal with. I think God wants you, and he wants me, to know… to understand… the high cost of being a follower of Christ. Jesus does not want us to get confused by what Dietrich Bonhoffer called, “cheap grace.” There’s nothing cheap about grace. It’s easy to accept the forgiveness offered through Christ, but it’s hard work to actually live the life of one who has been forgiven.
God paid the highest price imaginable for our salvation. Christ gave his very life... God gave his one and only son, so that you and I could be forgiven. That’s the cost of our salvation. But Jesus not only wants us to understand the cost of our salvation... and that it wasn’t cheap… but that there’s a high cost to actually following Christ, too.
That’s why he says what he says here in our scripture for today. The people had seen Jesus in action... they’d watched him. They’d witnessed Jesus perform miracles, as he healed the sick, the blind, deaf and lame. He spoke with authority. Even fed 5000+ from five small barley loaves in a couple of fish. And the crowds just kept coming. They got bigger and bigger... but it was starting to become more of a circus... a show... than anything else. The people were not hearing what Jesus was saying. They were coming because their stomachs were being filled! So, Jesus emphatically called those who dared follow him to calculate the costs, just like you do if you were building a building, or if you were preparing to go to war.
Jesus said we have to consider the cost of our discipleship before we jump in head first. It’s the story of the Rich Young Ruler... he calculated the cost, and realized he simply could not pay the price. He was too bound to the things of the world to give those things up in order to be a disciple of Jesus. He couldn’t sell it all and give the money to the poor and follow Christ and Christ alone. So he walked away.
But giving up everything is exactly what Jesus calls us, as his followers, to do. He calls us to put our lives in his hands. He calls us to trust him, to put him first. Christ calls us to give up everything that distracts us from living the Christian life and to follow in complete dependence. Jesus calls us to focus on God and to be on the same page (so to speak) as God. Listen: if our lives are going in 100 different directions all at once, chances are we will never go in God’s direction at all. That’s why Jesus says that our loyalty, our commitment, our focus, must be God.
The story is told of two men, John and Bill, who’d been working together for years. They’d become very good friends. They had lunch together at least once a week. They even went out on special occasions with their families together. One Sunday, John paid a visit to his sister’s church to hear his nephew who is singing in the youth choir. And he saw his friend, Bill, across the church. The next morning at work John approached Bill and said, “I never knew you were a Christian, Bill. In all the years I’ve known you, not once have you ever mentioned attending church.” Of course, John had never brought up the subject either.
As sad as that sounds, we all know people like that, don’t we? Closet Christians. Being a modern day disciple of Christ involves more than just going to church... singing “Kumbayah” and being nice! We’ve gotta be the church! We may be the only glimpse of Christ that many ever see!
Jesus was trying to tell the crowd, and therefore us, that God wants us to be co-workers with Christ. And as co-workers with Christ, we’re called to join in Christ’s ministry. And the fact is, we are! We’re carrying out ministry in a variety of different ways... we’re doing the things that Christ has called us to do.
We do it in our everyday lives at home, or in the workplace, or at school. You and I are serving Christ as we live out our “vocation.” Of course, the word vocation literally means, “that which we are called to do.” I believe God uses us in our daily work, no matter where we are, to touch the people around us with the spirit of Christ. Sometimes God even uses us when we're completely unaware that we’re being used! But the more aware we are, the better able we are to fulfill God's calling on our lives.
I was reading article recently that was written by Dr. William Hinson, it was an excerpt from a book that he had written. Dr. Hanson tells of growing up on a farm. His family raised hogs, and part of the spring chores involved rounding-up all the hogs and treating them with some awful concoction to keep all the critters (the fleas, ticks, lice) off the pigs. Every year Hinson’s father told him the very same thing.
“Remember they’ll be some of those hogs that you can’t catch, so put an extra dose on those you do get… Because sooner or later they’ll rub up against the others.”
The fact is... that’s just as true for us in the church. You and I are conduits of God's grace for those who are not here. We’re called to go into the world… we’re called to proclaim the Good News of new life that’s found in Christ and in Christ alone. And we do that by rubbing elbows with those around us. And maybe, just maybe, that grace you and I have received, will eventually rub off on those around us.
Of course, it all requires sacrifice... and we’re not keen on sacrifice of any kind... but especially when there’s a cross involved! But that’s exactly what Jesus says the cost of following him could very well be.
When Christ becomes the most important thing in our lives, and Christ becomes the focal point from which all things are understood and discerned, then giving up everything it’s actually like giving up nothing… because everything in the kingdom of God becomes ours. God’s Word says, “Seek ye FIRST the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these [other] things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33).
President Harry Truman made a trip out west to Arizona... And while there, giving a speech, Truman said, “You know, the greatest epitaph in the country is here in Arizona. It’s in Tombstone, Ariz., and this epitaph says, “Here lies Jack Williams. He done [all he could do].” (Literally, “He done his damndest.”). Truman said, “I think that is the greatest epitaph a man could have. Whenever a man does the best he can, then that is all he can do...”
(See https://www.bartleby.com/73/1515.html for full quote).
You know... that should be every Christians epitaph. He done all he could do. It should be inscribed on all of our headstones one day!
We’re called to take up or cross and follow Christ. You and I have been called put Christ first in our lives and to serve him to the best of our abilities. Being a Christian and living a Christian life is challenging at times - we all fall short. But basically we’re just called to HONESTLY do what we can... in the name of our Savior.
I wonder, are we doing the best we can? Maybe our commitment, maybe our dedication is lacking, and we know it. Maybe Christ and his church simply are not priority in our lives that they should be.
The good news is all of that can change, right now. You can make Christ first by simply choosing to put your hands in the hands of the one who loved you first and loves you most.
And through the grace of God and power of the Holy Spirit, you and I can go out into the world, and into our workplaces, our schools, our homes... or where ever... and take up the cross of Christ, and do everything in our power to glorify God with the gifting’s and graces he has given us. But, we have to be willing... to sacrifice.
This is the Word of God to the people of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.